This young man was sentenced to 13 years in prison last week. Of course this was not expected and the story of the actual event is appalling to me and I would think anyone who may have been privy to the last year and a half. This is a promising young man with a bright future who now suffers from severe stimulant use disorder, characteristics of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and persecutory ideations.
If you don’t know what this means for him I’m happy to elaborate. PTSD symptoms include things such as flashbacks and nightmares. Which he has suffered since the murder of his sister. A persecutory ideation is the feeling that people are always out to “get you.” Stimulant use disorder keeps people awake, sometimes for days at a time and perpetuates the ideations. Yet it is a trade off, no sleep, no nightmares.
How he got here is all related and tied back to the traumatic response when he was only seventeen. To the idea that men need to be tough and not talk about problems. To a lack of mental health care and the inability to seek that care because “people are judging you.”
This young man has never been arrested and had a clean criminal record, save an OUI at the age of 21. No one professes his innocence, including him. However, when a judge renders a decision which is well above and beyond even the recommendations of the prosecution, we have a problem.
We have a posse (and I use the term inclusively) of federal legislators, judges, prosecutors, enforcement officials and even defense attorneys who have perpetuated these issues. I have said these things before but I continue to come from a depth of understanding as to what is really happening that deepens daily. It’s personal perspective that drives continuing research and continuing outrage.
While the 6th amendment to the constitution guarantees every citizen the right to a trial by a jury of his or her peers. That is no longer an option. Every bit of research suggests that having a trial by jury increases sentences by seven to ten years. We, as a country, no longer enjoy this freedom. We are forced to plead to whatever charges the prosecution deems appropriate. Whether we are guilty, guilty of some parts, or innocent. Our criminal justice system now consists of making the best deal. Of penalizing those who don’t tell on everyone else involved.
Those who do tell the prosecutors whatever they want to hear can enjoy a sentence of looking over their shoulder for those who would harm them, of worrying their families will be harmed while they are away. All in what they now call “Substantial Cooperation,” and what is known to us as being a “rat” and dealt with sharply by society both inside prison and out. Prosecutors are no longer satisfied with admittance of guilt and describing what you know about your own behavior, they are now free to ask what you “think” about anyone else’s behavior.
Recently, our legislators enacted the “First Step Act” in an effort to combat long prison sentences for those with little criminal history, that accept responsibility for their actions, had no gun involved in any crime and for whom it is a first offense. And while the young man in question qualified for this sentence reduction, the judge in his case refused to apply it, as has happened to so many others. He even took away the reduction for his acceptance of responsibility after he plead guilty on agreement to do so.
Our legislators have also approved a list of programs which inmates can complete while incarcerated in order to reduce their sentences. These include drug treatment, mental health treatment, parenting classes, education and many others. While all of this seems like a step in the right direction, here is the reality. The Bureau of Prisons, more often than not, refuses to grant additional time off for doing any of these activities. In fact, recent court cases have sided against defendants in granting this.
So I would like to say this as I close. Thank you to our President, past presidents, senators, congressmen and women, federal judicial appointees, and prosecutors. Thank you for your efforts to solve a problem you know absolutely nothing about. Thank you for finally solving the drug problem in this country, I’m sure with my son being gone for the next thirteen years, everyone can just sleep so much easier. Thank you for allowing a convicted drug trafficker from South Carolina to “rat” on my son and decrease the sentence for his 3rd offense. It all makes perfect sense. You are all nothing but talking heads with words that placate your voters and perpetuate the reality of what actually does go on in America right outside your door.